Twitter is the third largest social media platform behind Facebook and Instagram. It is used by high school students and business people alike and it’s a fast-paced global trend-setting technology. Yet many church leaders are still wondering what all the fuss is about. Maybe that’s you?
I remember reading about Rick Warren’ conversation with John Piper. Piper was an active twitter user – an early adaptor – and Warren viewed the platform as narcissistic and self-serving. Then Piper said something to the effect of, “We are called to impact every space for God’s glory, and that includes the digital space.”
That was enough for Warren to sign up and send out this first tweet:
2 tweet or not 2 tweet? I fear the narcissistic possibility, but can’t pass up any tool to encourage you! Jumping in! .
— Rick Warren (@RickWarren) July 13, 2009
Today over 3500 tweets later Warren has more than a million and a half twitter followers. And he’s continuing to make an impact for God’s Kingdom through this tweetable platform.
Now you might be thinking to yourself, “well that’s fine and dandy for a global influencer and bestselling author like Rick Warren. But I’m a local minister. How can we use a global tool like Twitter to impact our local context?”
I’m glad you asked! Below I’ve outlined a seven-part strategy to your influence and reach more people on twitter in your local context.
Step 1: Follow Your Ministry Partners and Local Businesses
Twitter can be a powerful tool on a local level, but if you want to connect locally you need to find local businesses and ministry partners to follow. A lot of people make the mistake of signing up with twitter and then tweeting aimlessly hoping that people will retweet them and give them more exposure. But that strategy never works on its own.
When you follow local businesses – say a local coffee bar, media outlet, etc – or local authors or local churches that you sometimes partner with you build connections locally. A percentage of them will follow you back increasing your chances of being discovered and having your tweets reach more people locally. This happens when you share relevant tweets that another local business or ministry partner finds helpful to their audience, and they retweet you.
Step 2: Find and Follow Your Audience
Not only do people make the mistake of tweeting aimlessly, but they often make the more damaging mistake of following people indiscriminately. The first problem is that they follow too many people. Twitter has a follower/following ratio which (as near as I can tell) is different for everyone. But if you follow too many people at one time (or worse, if you “churn” meaning you follow a bunch and then immediately unfollow them) Twitter may suspend your account.
Okay, that’s the technical stuff. But there’s another more practical reason to discriminate when you follow someone on twitter. If you follow the wrong people (and if they follow you back) then all you’ve done is succeed in building up what Michael Hyatt calls “vanity metrics.” In other words, your twitter account my “look” good with a bunch of followers, but the people following you don’t actually care about your message or ministry. (For those people, embrace the unfollower and unsubscribes.)
So in choosing to follow someone take the time to look at their profile. See how often they are on Twitter by how often they tweet. Pay attention to where they are from and what they are all about. That information is often readily available in their profile. Then see who they are following. Set up a routine of following a few people every day. (Tip: look through the local businesses and ministry partners you follow to find potential connections and build your audience.)
Step 3: Tweet Often (Like Several Times A Day)
I heard a statement once and I’m not sure where, but it goes like this: “If you’re not consistent, you’re non-existent.” That’s true of social media in general, but all the more so with Twitter because of its scrolling news feed format. This is where a lot of people fall off of the Twitter-wagon. They tweet more or less sporadically and eventually stop altogether when they don’t see results (or the only results they see are unfollows).
My suggestion is that you tweet six to eight times a day (yes, a day!). Because once you tweet something that tweet begins to scroll down the tweet feed and is buried amidst countless other dead tweets – only seen by anyone who happened to be on Twitter around the time of the tweet.
Sounds tough, right? How are you ever going to come up with enough content to tweet that much, right? How are you going to remember to go on Twitter and tweet six or eight times a day, am I right?
Fortunately there are two things you need to know that will help. The first is because of the scrolling nature of Twitter you can repost the same link or tweet several times a day. Just be sure to change the wording so Twitter doesn’t flag it as spam.
Secondly, sign up with Buffer. Buffer is a free service that allows you to schedule up to ten tweets at a time spread across two days (they have a paid service that will allow you to do more). So if you take 10 or 15 minutes out of your morning you can keep a healthy Twitter account active that can really make an impact for God’s Kingdom.
Step 4: Be Relevant and Predictable
Make sure you stay on point and post whatever it is your church is all about. What’s your church’s particular mission? Do you focus a lot of time and energy on Celebrate Recovery? Or do you pour more energy in a robust Home Group mission? Whatever it is, post frequently on those points – more frequently than anything else.
If people follow you because you offer a particular message from a particular angle, then stick to it. If you begin to post about other random stuff you’re sure to disappoint your followers and they will unfollow you.
So always be relevant to your audience and consistent and predictable with your message. It builds trust if people can know what to expect from your church.
Step 5: For heaven’s sake, put up a profile picture
It’s a simple thing to do but it’s amazing how many people don’t do it. Take a few moments to put up a profile picture. If you keep Twitters standard egghead going you’re sure to not be taken seriously by Twitter users. It also shows that you’re not that interested in Twitter, even if you are.
And while you’re at it, fill out your profile including things like your location, your mission summary and a link to your website. These are simple things that will go a long way to helping your social media ministry build traction and make an impact on Twitter.
Step 6: Listen, Talk and Reply
Next, don’t forget to engage. I’ve said it repeatedly on this blog. It’s not enough to have a social media presence, you need to actually be present. When someone thanks you for following them, say you’re welcome and that it’s your pleasure. If someone follows you, follow them back (if it makes sense to do so) and thank them for the follow. If someone retweets something you tweet out, thank them publicly. Tweet them. Don’t send a private message (which is almost a taboo on Twitter).
Be apart of the conversation and show the love of Christ by showing people how much you appreciate their twitter engagement with your church.
Step 7: Build A List of Influencers
Finally I’m going to end off with this little gem (even though there are way more things I could say). Twitter allows you to create “lists.” You can name the list whatever you want and then handpick twitter followers to go in that list. For example, create a list called “Media” and put all of your local media outlets that are on Twitter into that list. When you click on your Media list you’ll just see all the recent tweets from those people. Engage them and help them build familiarity with you. Who knows how a local pastor’s good relationship with a local media outlet could affect your church’s future and it’s Kingdom message? Who knows what kind of doors might open up!
Another list you could create is one with other local ministers and churches. Cultivating those relationships on Twitter could kick open unimaginable opportunities.
Remember, at the end of the day social media is all about relationships. Be proactive. Twitter can go a long way toward so many opportunities for your church to impact your community. Ways you haven’t even imagined yet!
* Grow your Twitter account FAST
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